So many of us want to travel these days. We seem to have an insatiable hunger for experience, culture, meaningful connections, and global encounters. And, let's face it, a one or two week vacation each year just isn't hitting the mark anymore, yet that's all many can afford.
So how could you make your travel budget go further? Four years ago we discovered house sitting and we haven't looked back. We love it so much we've turned it into a full-time lifestyle. In the last year we have looked after properties in top rated "Pueblos Magicos" throughout Mexico, and spent three month caring for a small riverside estate in Botswana, with hippos at the end of the garden. Barbados is our most recent destination, and in a few weeks we'll be heading to Perth, Australia for Christmas.
In between house sitting we enjoy "once-in-a-lifetime" travel adventures. Since January we've spent a month exploring Cuba, and experienced an awesome mobile safari in the Okavango Delta in Africa. We slept under the stars in Botswana's vast salt pans, and enjoyed a memorable trip to Victoria Falls. Next year we head to Thailand to take a sailing course in Phuket for a couple of weeks, then we're back to house sitting in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Vincent.
Sounds wonderful doesn't it? And it is, but at this point I'm going to say something that contradicts what a lot of people will tell you about house sitting.
HOUSE SITTING DOESN'T LET YOU TRAVEL THE WORLD FOR FREE!
We did do all of these things without dipping into our savings, but we needed funding for getting to and from our destinations, occasional hotel stays, flights, and day-to-day living and excursions. What house sitting does do is help you save dramatically on your accommodation costs; it makes travel much more affordable.
As digital nomads, we combine our house sitting with remote work. We teach English online to Chinese students for between 30 and 70 hours a month each - that's what funds our full-time house sitting and travel lifestyle! More and more digital nomads are looking for ways to combine remote working with continual travel, and house sitting helps achieve this, in some situations, because, there's one other thing you need to know.
HOUSE SITTING COMES WITH RESPONSIBILITIES!
The concept of house sitting is built around an exchange of services. You do get free accommodations- or you may see this as free rent if sitting long-term- but you are offering your time for free in return to maintain the home and look after the pets. This could be an easy care kitty or a whole menagerie of animals, and that's why it's important to match your house sitting expectations with the home owners’ needs.
Make your travel budget go much further.
Now with all of that out of the way, I can comfortably tell you that house sitting really does open up a world of travel opportunities. So, if you still think this might be for you, don't mind sharing your space with pets and setting time aside for daily tasks, then this may be the answer to making your travel money go further.
If you can negotiate a longer vacation or sabbatical, you'll find opportunities all over the world; the UK, USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Central America are all popular house sitting destinations. But, as word spreads, other areas are opening up to this trust-based exchange too.
We've recently seen house-sits in China- plus more turning up in Thailand and Asia- and even in South America. The competition is fierce for these newer destinations, so you'll need to make sure you've got a professional profile and a good set of references to help you stand out from the house-sitter crowd.
I'm not a digital nomad, I just want more holidays!
Not everyone house sits full-time or takes long term sits. There are many thousands of people who use house sitting as a way to simply extend their vacations by making their money go a bit further. Or, they use the money saved to pay for more holidays each year. House sits can be for a few days, a week or two, even a month or more. You could even use house sitting as a way to visit all the cities you've never visited in your home country on weekend trips.
Try splitting your vacation.
Try part travel adventure, part house sit, this way you can really focus your attention on being a house sitter and living like a local, after enjoying yourself with no constraints on your time.
After a week in expensive hotels and dining out in pricey restaurants, it can be a great way to wind down and relax, watch movies, cook a meal, and cuddle up with the pets! It's a great way to give back too if you want to be part of the sharing economy. We get great satisfaction knowing we've helped someone else get away on their own vacation.
Are there always pets?
When we house sat in Botswana, we didn't have any pets. The home owner jokingly told us "the only pets are wild ones". Instead we had staff to monitor a few days a week. We were given the opportunity to go "walkabout" for one overnight trip each month, and we had a car provided too, which gave us the freedom to explore. These "pet free" opportunities appear less often, so you just have to look a bit harder! There are so many different opportunities, it's not difficult to find the perfect sit for your own circumstances.
So how do I get started as a house sitter?
There are 4 reputable international house sitting platforms:
TrustedHousesitters is the largest, so it has the most opportunities.
Nomador is good too, and has a lot of European sits.
HouseSitMatch is smaller, but less competitive; good for newcomers.
HouseCarers was the first ever house sitting platform; very professional.
The websites do charge a signup fee, ranging from $50 to $120, but this is an annual charge, so if you weigh this up against your accommodation savings, it really is a small price to pay. Once you find the right house sitting platform for you, it's simply a case of preparing a really compelling profile and building your references. Then, just start applying! I've made it sound easy, but in reality there's a bit more to it if you want to be super successful and guarantee ongoing sits, and even repeat sit offers.
There's so much information available online, and the platforms mentioned above all have great resources, tips, and guidance on getting started. We are so passionate about the house sitting lifestyle, we've created a free publication to help others get started. There are lots of "getting started" resources on our website.
So, do some research, learn the basics, and get yourself started. We hope house sitting helps you see more of the world in the way that you want to travel.
A full time international house sitter and publisher of House Sitting - The ultimate lifestyle magazine. Vanessa has been traveling the world continuously since 2013 with her partner Ian Usher. They work remotely and look after other peoples properties and pets. Having sold most of their possessions, they prefer the freedom to explore the world, living as locals for extended periods in different countries. Vanessa writes about the joys and challenges of living a nomadic lifestyle.